Friday 24 February 2017

Running a writing masterclass

By Paula Harrison

Me with fellow slushies Maureen Lynas and Addy Farmer in the pub afterwards (after eating a very large chocolate muffin)

Last Saturday, I went to Birmingham to run a session called A young series fiction masterclass which I'd offered to SCBWI members. By April, I'll have 20 young series books published over three different series (The Rescue Princesses, The Secret Rescuers and Tiara Friends mysteries) so I wanted to start sharing what I knew with other writers.

The Case of the Stolen Crown - the first book in my new series - out in April

I gained enormous insight through SCBWI sessions whilst working towards getting published. Diana Kimpton and Lee Weatherly both delivered excellent sessions at the SCBWI annual conference several years ago. I think Diana's session may have been in 2008 - my second conference - and that was the one that gave me the push to try writing for readers aged 5-8.

I'd never run a masterclass before - I'd only delivered talks lasting 45 minutes or so as part of a larger writers' day at the Nosy Crow offices - so I was a little nervous about how it would go. One of my concerns was wanting to make the day appropriate to a group of people who might be at different stages in their writing journey. My other main worry was timings - I tend to go quite fast if adrenaline is flowing and I was worried I might skip past things. But I was once a primary school teacher so I'm used to thinking through how to break skills and knowledge down into manageable chunks that people can learn. Also I'm much more practiced at standing up in front of groups of adults than I used to be. So I reminded myself of all this on the way there!

The people that came were an excellent group - full of thoughtful questions - and I got some useful feedback from them at the end of the day. The day was split up into different sections and the information interspersed with exercises. Every section got picked by at least one person as the most useful to them, which backed up my theory that people were going to get slightly different things out of the day. The feedback I've had has certainly given me the confidence to say I'd run the masterclass again. Special thanks to Donna Vann and her husband and to Clare Bell, who did all sorts of practical things that made the day possible. It was lovely to meet a lot of people who I only knew through facebook and the SCBWI fb page and it reminded me that I MUST try to get to more writers' events this year.

There's a kind of magic (cue song) which happens when writers get together. It happened on Saturday and I can't take credit for it, of course. It's the magic that comes from being in a group of like-minded people who are just as barmy as you and have all these strange story thoughts in their head just like you do. 

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